So the Church is a Mess? Not Sure What to Do?

At dinner with friends the other night the conversation turned to the traditionalists with a fair bit of sympathy. Along with the obnoxious voices of the radical traditionalists there are many good Catholics who simply feel let down by their church leadership.

They may be willing to put up with a liturgy they don’t like and music that they find shallow and they may be willing to endure sentimental or politically correct homilies, but they see a deeper malaise in the church and don’t know what to do about it.It’s like they are looking at a beautiful garden over run with weeds and they don’t know where to start or what to do to restore the garden.

A heartfelt comment in yesterday’s combox expresses the anger and loss many traditionalist Catholics feel at the corruption and liberalism in the church:

 I find myself grateful for your comments about being too critical and how it can cause more division in the Church. I also come back to a question, how do we confront the corruption, and there is much of it along side many good people, that are tearing apart the community of the Church? Do we simply say, well God will take care of it at the end of time? Some times this is the only possibility. Yet, as I watched Michael Voris’ Mic’d up regarding the systematic squashing of his ministry from those unnamed people that run dioceses, all I can say is I have seen it first hand. I have seen one really fine energetic Catholic after another, priests and laity, that have been silenced into oblivion for simply teaching the faith with clarity. I will tell you I have never seen someone who teaches absolute falsehood regarding the faith so treated. How is that? What do we call this except a corrupt system? I wont even mention what it took to uncover the sexual abuse that had been covered up for so many years and the seemingly intentional blaming it on pedophiles rather than homosexual relations with post pubescent children and priests (this is not pedophilia, yet we keep calling it that). Why? Do we just remain silent, or only talk behind closed doors to keep things from going public and we keep a good face? How does one go about this and have some good affect? I to have watched good Catholic people become so angry at the corruption that they no longer have much peace of heart and seem to be holier than thou, as you said. This is no good either. So maybe you can give us more insight into these questions and inconsistencies.

Let’s consider the options: you start protesting. You speak out against corruption, liberalism and indifference. What happens? You will be marginalized as divisive, angry and self righteous. Remember, the people you are fighting are just as convinced of the rightness of their way of doing things as you are of yours. They not only like the banal hymns, the shallow homilies and the feel good liturgies, but they believe them to be the best way forward for the church. Is there scandal and corruption? Those who are trying to fix the problem will not thank you for angry protests.

Furthermore, should you engage in angry protest you will be rejected and excluded from the conversation. This will make you more angry and bitter and before long you will develop a martyr’s complex, and if you’re not careful you will spend all your time licking your wounds and berating your enemies and you may well drift further and further into schism and even heresy yourself.

Let us compare Martin Luther and St Francis. Both were passionate Christians during a time of corruption, indifference and worldliness in the church. Luther began to protest. Many of his complaints were justified. He wanted a pure church–one untainted by what he perceived as heresy and scandal. The protest ended up as Protestantism and the result of that was war, rebellion, sectarianism and five hundred years of strife.

St Francis, on the other hand, heard the words of Christ “re-build my church” and he began to do so with his bare hands. When his order was under attack from the authorities as being sectarian and heretical he went and stood barefoot in the snow until he was able to have an audience with Pope Innocent. In other words, St Francis became a saint. That’s how he confronted the scandal and corruption in the church–by showing the world what it truly looks like to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

So how does one confront the corruption, heresy, indifference and scandal in the church? Be a radical disciple. With a joyful heart begin re-building the church right where you are. Serve the Lord with gladness with the gifts he has given you. Do you dislike the music in church? Join the choir. Form a chant group to sing at one of the masses. Offer to pay the salary for a new organist and choir director. Get involved in the parish council. Sponsor a parish mission with a dynamic speaker. Get to know and love your pastor. Overwhelm him with joyful and loyal service. Find out what he needs and deliver it. Soon you will be his confidante and friend.

Do the same at the diocesan level. Get to know the people involved. They are not the enemy. They are your brothers and sisters even if you disagree. If they have a pet cause or mission get involved and help to make it work. When the church is riddled with scandal and corruption fight it by identifying others who are trying to weather the storm and bring good out of the mess. Support them with your prayers, your giving and your friendship.

Do the same at the national and international level. Find the religious orders, apostolates and ministries that are doing good and support them. Every year I go to the Catholic Leadership Conference and meet over a hundred committed, on fire laypeople who are running a whole range of wonderful apostolates that help the poor, spread Catholic devotions, foster strong spirituality, engage in the political debate and seek to evangelize and share the faith. Get to know these groups. Support them with your friendship, your enthusiasm, your zeal and your dollars. Join in with the people who are changing the church in a positive way. Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty and get to work.

The more you get involved in the groups that are doing wonderful work in the church the more you will be filled with joy in being a Catholic. The corruption, scandal and heresy will fade away like shadows. You will see clearly what you should be doing and it will be positive, life filled and life giving. You will soon see all the good that is going on and the bad you see will fade in importance.

Finally, remember this, we are engaged in a spiritual battle. Why did you think that the church would be free from corruption, scandal, indifference and heresy? It has always been like this and it always will be. Read church history. The complainers and protesters never accomplished very much. The saints did. The saints confronted corruption with radiant lives of simplicity and power. They skewered scandal with radiant lives of purity and goodness. They overwhelmed indifference with radiant lives of zeal and joy. At times they spoke out against the scandal, indifference and corruption, but they always did so based on the authority of their own powerful sanctity.

In other words, overwhelm the world with the light, life and beauty of Christ alive in you.

Don’t curse the dark.

Set alight a life ablaze with glory and goodness.

Joanne McPortland compares this effort to the righting of the Costa Concordia – go here

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  • jeff

    Great post Fr. I note that the hundred people you met at that conference all seemed to be involved in things separate from the traditional diocesan structure (operating with the Bishop’s blessing–to be sure–but also outside of the actual diocesan structure).

    The great work done by EWTN, Catholic Answers (and yes, I’m going to include him) Michael Voris are all done outside of and were initiated from outside of the diocesan or even parochial structure. Some religious or laypeople had a great idea and they followed it through. I love the fact that religious orders, too, have independance from the drab mainstream megolith called the USCCB

  • johnnyc

    What about obedience to the Holy Spirit that is giving us the ability to
    discern right from wrong and to then follow the Gospel. Wouldn’t Mathew
    18:15-17 apply? So we are to not bring our concerns to the priest in
    question? Then to the Bishop? And if that still does not correct error
    then yes I submit maybe it’s time to find another parish.

  • Augustine

    Being an armchair prophet is being a false prophet.

  • Tom in SJ

    Amen! Food for thought. I have much to chew on with this.

  • anna lisa


  • Gordis85

    “The complainers and protesters never accomplished very much. The saints did. The saints confronted corruption with radiant lives of simplicity and power. They skewered scandal with radiant lives of purity and goodness. They overwhelmed indifference with radiant lives of zeal and joy. At times they spoke out against the scandal, indifference and corruption, but they always did so based on the authority of their own powerful sanctity.”

    Thank you for the above words…I see Pope Francis among the saints as he goes about trying to encourage the rest of us to seek Christ, to follow him and to be faithful sons and daughters of the Church. Amen!

  • minivlin

    I don’t think that Fr. is saying that we should not address errors following Matthew 18:15-17. I believe the point is to develop a relationship with the pastor (and others) so that the corrections and suggestions can be truly received in charity as loving correction. I personally find it easier to take correction from someone I respect and who I know is correcting me for my own good in love.

    When we foster and deepen our own relationships with Christ, our love for him will shine through in all that we do. If we live our lives as true disciples then, as father mentions of the saints, we have the authority to do so.

    Above all we must remain humble in our interactions with others always pointing them to Christ. I received some advice recently: It’s hard to remain angry with someone you are praying for. That is not to say that our anger is not, at times justified (just as Jesus overturned the tables), but we must always make corrections in love.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    And while some might say that their means of support requires them to live where they do, be courageous and seek out a bishop whose leadership exemplifies your vision of what the Church ought to look like. There are many Catholics (more than you think) who migrate to other parts of the country because of the bishop who happens to be boldly orthodox and whose diocese, because of his leadership, is growing in unimaginable ways. In that way, you are likely to find a parish which suits your own way of living out the faith.


    I like your response, but here’s my problem with it. Not everyone is a [S]aint. Not everyone has the fortitude, freedom of lifestyle, knowledge, temperance, or even the relational skills to on their own do what you suggest. However, true intentional disciples of Christ can all easily recognize when their parish is not led by or filled with the same. So, whereas they may clearly understand that their parish is neither teaching The Way nor following it in mission, they may not be able to do anything about it or how they personally engage it. It is the flippant who quickly say, “We’ll then just go find another parish.” Really? How does one do that? The Yellow Pages? Search Google for Faithful Followers and Disciples Catholic Parish? And if you do go somewhere else, how do you get engaged? I’ve literally visited dozens of catholic parishes and not one had a greeting team that assisted new visitors in how to get plugged in. You’re asking people who might never have ever attended any other church to simply get up and go and find another in the hopes they’ll get plugged in an begin to feel like they belong to a community of like minded disciples of The Way? Easier said then done. I see more and more young Catholics have a conversion experience into becoming intentional disciples, and then struggling at the local parish only to give up eventually and start attending an evangelical protestant church. Your response although correct and helpful for some, fails to address a far wider population troubled by the shallow culture of religion-sans-faith that is ultimately revealed to many who begin to look closely at their local parish…in my opinion. Francis started a worldwide movement. It’s unfair and unrealistic to ask those struggling with faithless parish communities to compare themselves to Francis.

  • Bill Beckman

    I hope that the reference to “groups that are doing wonderful work in the Church” includes the new movements, charisms and ecclesial commununities so welcomed and encouraged by Pope Francis and his predecessors since the close of the Council. They seem to be more welcomed by popes than by ecclesial bureaucracy and other defenders of the status quo. Perhaps that should tell us something.

  • Baptismal Vows

    I agree Father with your assessment to a degree. Faithful Catholics certainly need to bear down and focus on “radical” discipleship. But how should this be done? The sad fact is that diocese’s and parishes across the country are full of people who hold views destructive to the Church. Many good Catholics suffer as a result and the faith overall is weakened (Church leaders should instead be building and strengthening it). It is very difficult for faithful Catholics to maintain radical discipleship when their bishops and pastors do not support and protect them. They are like sheep without a shepherd, easy prey for the wolves. The pope said the other day that the “Evil One is smart”. The devil is indeed smart in the sense that to destroy as many Catholics as possible he need only to work within the Church. It should be painfully obvious to all that Satan has done exactly this (priest homosexual scandals, decades of bad catechesis, fall off in mass attendance, birth control, etc….). We have no need to fear the secularists, pagans, atheists and Muslims, the real enemy is truly within. If one accepts this paradigm then the only solution is all out war. Dissenting Catholics are our enemies and should not to be “accepted” as harmless brethren. They need to be fought with all our spiritual strength and if possible expelled (Ephesians 6:13-18 and Matthew 18:15-17 comes to mind). We can argue on how this is done, but radical disciples do certainly need to “man up” and fight. “Loving our enemies” in my opinion means pointing out their error in a personal and humble manner and praying that they change their hearts. If this is not done and the error, destruction and stubbornness of heart remain and continue then “shake the dust of your feet” and “count him all one as the heathen and publican”. The sad fact is that many of the dissenters in the Church will not go away and are certainly not going to accept authentic teaching. They will remain within the fold and sow their destruction. Christ will separate them on the last day (Matthew 25:46) but we also need leaders today to purge them out.

  • ponerology

    Father, your suggestions won’t work in the world of “the people of God” because they will not accept, embrace, or even (charitably) tolerate Tradition. The only way is to speak the (traditional) Truth and speak it without fear and at the same time, step outside of the buildings that are currently run by the Modernists. Good does not come out of evil. Working within the current church hierarchy is akin to swimming with sharks. The diseases of Modernism and freemasonry have reached the very top and only those at the top, who still have the Faith and the courage, can attempt to excise it.

  • frdlongenecker

    They will not be able to overcome true humility and sanctity.

  • frdlongenecker

    They will be overcome by true humility and sanctity–not by force.

  • frdlongenecker

    The enemy is overcome by true humility and sanctity

  • Augustine

    I see this reply from you to several posts that seem to have a common theme: someone should create a program to save the Church/diocese/parish. Your reply is the program, and a scriptural one, but I’m afraid that the expectation is for a program according to the world. Except that it’s been tried and is at the root of the evil of the contemporary West; its name is Protestantism.

  • kkollwitz

    Just do it.

  • Elizabeth K.

    Great post Father–have been struggling with this a bit myself, though I don’t necessarily mind the hymns and the liturgies. But lately, I seem to have become a lightning rod for anti-Catholic comments. Comments that are stupid. Knowing how to respond, be3yond saying, “golly, that’s stupid,” is a challenge.

  • Kevin Tierney

    The force of sanctity comes in several ways. By all means lets do what we can to build up. But when you’ve got a chance to strike at error, by all means strike.
    Just remember to always ask yourself what your endgame is. Do we have a realistic plan to change what we condemn, and what are we doing for the alternatives?
    I also think most importantly… be willing to listen. Be available to those who aren’t traditionalists, listen to their concerns, and always be at their service to help them work through their own issues, and point out to them how you go through the same issues. A lot of people make a lot of money and influence on all sides perpetuating the idea that there is this great divide and chasm. When people interact face to face (instead of keyboard to keyboard, or even worse, just parrot whatever “experts” tell them), then that division thrives.

  • Gail Finke

    I don’t think it’s always that easy and I’m sure many people will write that they tried to do that and were rebuffed — I’ve seen it in other groups, I’m sure it happens in the church as well. But… I really don’t see any alternative to what you say. Get in there. Be a witness. Love and don’t become bitter. Maybe it’ll work; maybe it won’t. But better Francis than Luther, and never forget St. Therese… While she was alive, she never seemed to have accomplished anything, did she? The abbess (??) let her die of gangrene and wouldn’t even give her morphine!!!!! You can’t die in much more obscurity and lack of regard than that. She probably thought she didn’t accomplish anything at all lasting in her life, and that she managed to help only a few people who knew her and would soon forget her after she died. HA.

  • Baptismal Vows

    I agree Father, again to a degree. A homosexual Catholic School teacher in California for example, who “married” his partner last month had to be “forced” out of his job, and rightly so. He wasn’t going to just walk away. Some who teach heresy in CCD programs or priests who practice homosexuality need to be forced out of the parish. Just humbly asking them to step aside won’t always work. I maintain we need the leadership in parishes not afraid to get rid of people in official positions who claim to be Catholic but aren’t truly representing the Magisterium. Dissent is rampant throughout some dioceses and parishes and too many bishops and pastors allow it to continue through their in-action.

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    The following is a serious question I am struggling with at the moment, as a catechist I know and respected highly, did exactly what you’re advocating.

    Her ‘boss’ – an ‘orthodox’ priest – was replaced by a very ‘liberal’ one so, when her strength was most needed, it appears she jumped-ship because she didn’t like the views of new priest who took over.

    She seems to have done it without a moment’s thought that she was abandoning ‘her chicks’ to their fate when they actually needed her most… It all seems spectacularly narcissistic. She even wrote what appears to be a self-serving piece on her blog justifying why a ‘bad’ priest spoils everything and makes ‘good’ catechesis impossible.

    But, isn’t what you’re advocating, and what she did, the Catholic equivalent of Protestant ‘Church Shopping’, or what Dr Bryan Cross over at Called to Communion, calls ‘Ecclesial Consumerism’?

    Isn’t it simply the ex-Catholic ‘I wasn’t being fed’, trope, used as an excuse as to why they became Evangelicals, but just being used to justify a self-satisfying Catholicism, or as my Evangelical friends put it, ‘…as long as it meets my need’?

    What I’m seeing more and more, is ‘orthodox’ Catholicism behaving and looking very like the erroneous ecclesiological system I left. Interestingly, she’s one of the breed of ‘Charismatic Traddies’: All Latin Mass and hand-waving, and no-doubt God told her to move on, and brush the dust off her feet when a priest who celebrated OF Masses only arrived. Rubrics when it suits, and ‘the Spirit moving where he wills’, when it suits.

    To me, Fr L is far more in line with the Church on these matters, whilst the ‘traddies’ seem to be rather ‘Lutheran’ on the matter, gradually becoming less able to abide the presence of the less-than-perfect in the Church, it seems.

    My Evangelical ‘friends’ up-sticks and leave all those people they were huggin’ and a ‘kissin’ only moments earlier because they don’t like the new pastor, and I’m seeing this trend growing fast in Catholic traditionalism, like the catechist I mentioned, who ought to know better, after just completing a Masters degree in Catechesis at the Maryvale Institute, England.

    What should we make of CCC #781 and Lumen Gentium 9?

    What is our responsibility to neighbour in this regard? Is moving on to a Catholic congregation which suits my worldview – dare I say tastes? – when ‘I’m not being fed’ justified in the light of our Ecclesiology?

    God has saved a people, not atomized individuals. …Both Christian salvation and Church are communal, social, visible, embodied… The Church is not something you choose. It is something for which you are chosen… So expunge the individualistic outlook and volitional agency you have inherited from modern liberal individualism…not from Scripture or the Christian Tradition… It means living in full relational communion with all other Catholic believers…It means being tied to your parish, to priests, and to a bishop who are all themselves tied by historic succession…It means real relationships, real belonging, real community, real accountability, real commonality, real human ties that span the globe…That is how you need to start understanding what it means to be catholic. It means, in short, to be Catholic.
    [From 'Steps' 52-53, in Christian Smith, How To Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps]

  • Baptismal Vows

    Dialogue, talking to dissenters, listening to their concerns, being at their service, helping them work out their issues, helping them see the light are all good things and should be done. But like Our Lord said if this doesn’t work then they should be removed from official Church positions (for their own good) but mainly for the good of the innocent who will be scandalized.

  • Jack

    I love the traditional Eastern Liturgy and am devoted to it. I say the traditional Byzantine office and keep our fasts as much as my strength permits. My private prayer life is based on centuries-old approved devotions and prayers of the Eastern church. I rejoice at the spiritual banquet the Church offers me.

    I reject the magisterium of nuns–but also the magisterium of questionable mystics and revelations, the magisterium of lay traditionalist scandal-mongers, and the magisterium of those who are never happy except when the can point out something else horrible to moan about.

    Isn’t this enough to make me a traditionalist?

  • Keyboard Cowboy

    The spineless bishops are to blame. Think of the pedophilia scandal: The bishops tolerated a most extreme level of corruption in these cases. Now, they are forced to deal with the problem of pedophilia. But there are thousands of levels of corruption beneath the corruption of pedophilia. Priests who are: heretics, thieves, drunks and porn addicts, into prostitution, lying, arrogance, etc. The bishops have no back bone to deal with these problems. They are incapable of standing up against evil when they see it. The American Bishops and the American Cardinals are all bad leaders and bad shepherds.

  • Chesire11

    …and in all things, Charity.

    If you see things being done wrong, or poorly, don’t automatically ascribe the errors and flaws to villainy. They aren’t the enemy. Most Catholics have barely been catechized, and have no idea that there is anything deeper than the banalities they have been napping through for their whole lives.

    Liberals are not bad people, and they are not stupid. They are quite often very good, passionate, smart people who have made one or two mistakes along the way, or have never been taught correctly. Sometimes they are even right! Approach them with charity and humility, and engage them respectfully, and you just might find yourself a committed ally where you expected an enemy.

  • Donna G

    I agree wholeheartedly. Father L, your suggestions are constructive but it’s not as simple as that. Take my example. All satisfactory enough at the parish I had attended for years until February, when our old, orthodox priest retired and was replaced with a priest who now runs the parish through a closed clique of intimates and who has implemented major and disturbing changes. I’ve heard nothing short of heresy from the pulpit and have had to endure liturgies with a level of shallowness and irreverence that has reduced me to either tears or rage. I tried the “humility and sanctity” route but a few weeks ago I could endure no more. I felt I was violating my conscience by participating in the sort of irreverence towards the Holy Eucharist that is now occuring. Others have also left the parish, and now I am going from parish to parish trying desperately to find a new home. This is really hard, because I am painfully shy and find change traumatic. And it’s all because as a Catholic, all I want is to attend a Catholic Mass being conducted reverently and as a Catholic Mass. I am at my wit’s end. I think for the first time I now understand why people join the SSPX.

  • ponerology

    Take a look at the free directory (you can make a donation if you like) of traditional Masses at

  • Jack

    Gail, all sources I’ve seen say that St. Therese of Lisieux died of tuberculosis, not gangrene.

  • Augustine

    These are strawmen. The original poster is not talking about grave, public sin.

  • Bob

    Your garden metaphor, Father, leads me to recall some lessons I’ve learned in taming my own overgrown yard. If I devote all my time to planting nice flowers, they’ll soon be choked out by weeds. If instead I devote all my time to weeding, but plant no flowers, I’ll have lovely, clean bare dirt and nothing else. Neither outcome is a good garden. Weed AND feed: that’s the only pattern of work that produces a good garden, and it leads me to think that we need both to “light candles” AND “curse the darkness” if we want to renew the Church.

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    I think the problem is still predominantly …drum-roll… Clericalism.

    It’s not only the control of the clergy and/or the obsequiousness of the laity, but the sense of helplessness it engenders, or it’s convenient for people to assume, in order to do nothing. Are we really victims, or just lazy?

    Many people want ‘ministries’, but they don’t want to serve. They want to assume the status of clerical class, not the hoi polloi, and it’s probably never been any different.

    Our church has scaffolding inside at the moment, so there’s only a temporary light over the ambo. Last Sunday, the readers tried to read the OT, Psalm, and Epistle in the gloom as no-one switched it on before Mass began. However, after watching these readers struggle, when it came to the Gospel, two of our most obsequious ministers scuttled up to the ambo to switch the light on ‘for the priest’…
    It was very symbolic that the light should increase when it came to the proclamation of the Gospel, but I’m sure this was not their intention in the gesture.

    How much are our bishops and priests – or the labels ‘Traddie’ or ‘Modernist’ we apply to them – simply an excuse for so much of our inactivity and mess?

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    People migrate, not just because of Father X or Father Y, or because the liturgy doesn’t suit their tastes. People I have spoken to are looking for a faith community that supports what they sense is God’s calling for their lives as Catholics. For many of these people, they are looking for a community that supports the inviolability of the marriage vows, a pro-life morality and an openness to children that eschews contraception. It is difficult enough in today’s world for Catholics to live out their faith and be true to God’s call for them to be evangelizers and what they are looking for to support them on their path to holiness. is a community of faith which takes the practice of religion seriously. One expects that those who ‘live according to the flesh’ and who are in need of evangelization will behave in certain ways (that’s what it means to live in the flesh) but one expects something quite differently from those who have died to self and who now live in Christ.

  • Josep

    Fr. D. please break it down for us with Bold Headings before the paragraphs, so if we need to breeze through we can find what we want to read! (Not that I haven’t read the full text of your posts in the past.) with kind regards, a young reader.

  • Gruffyd

    I struggle with this constantly. My deepest desire is to leave my parish and simply go join the local institute of Christ the King parish where I wouldn’t have to deal with the mess anymore. I’m trying to stay and work through the good people in the church. I try to be a good son of the church. As one of the other commenters said however, we are not all saints. I most certainly am not. My hope is almost gone. On Monday while volunteering to help with a church activity. I spent some time with my fellow parishioners and listened as the conversation turned to how “terrible” it is that people are getting and using food stamps, people buy their children candy or chips with food stamps…etc. after listening to so much I reminded everyone that we are Christians. The point is, aren’t these the 2% arent these people that are actually involved the dynamic Catholics I read about. How can a tree grow with rotten roots? Reading an article about traditionalists yesterday the com box is full of references to that ” Traddy family of 12″ and how they just need to be humored…. They need to be tolerated. These were well meaning comments but they show the underlying fear and disgust even we Catholics have for a lack of birth control. I have to tell you, my family of six is the most comfortable when talking/hanging out with the large families we know. The reason seems to be that the big families by definition are Catholic. I can freely talk to them knowing they share the same views. God, please heal your church. A church where Nancy Pelosis pastor publicly states that she is a faithful parishioner, leave her alone is so far gone from its core values that I don’t even know what to say

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    I think you are misrepresenting my point. It was not about clergy or the liturgy, it was about Church Shopping (of which a ‘pastor’ is an aspect of it), but which you still go on to defend without any real argument I would consider a justification from any authoritative source. You seem to be expressing merely your preference, or the fact that as so many Catholic like-minds do it, it’s right, in a similar way other like-minds justify contracepting as their ‘school’ is doing it.

    What I find is that only certain socio-economic groups have the privilege of moving on, and often certain values go with that social group, too, so parishes remain emasculated as all the ‘good’ people leave to be with a coterie of egos they’re happier with or ‘get fed by’ elsewhere.

    Is Holy Orders a sacrament or not? Is a priest merely a figurehead like a Baptist Minister or CEO? Does ex opere operato only apply when your priest is drunk or suchlike, or is it something far more down to earth about the very nature of the priesthood and therefore something which thereby somewhat defines our relationship with him? That is, a ‘Clerical Realism’, if we can call it that, rather than Clericalism?

    Is holiness an epiphenomenon of grace or not? If it’s not, then I am clearly vulnerable, and need to surround myself with as many like minds and groupthink as possible. This is what Protestants do.

    If it is grace, then might I not be called to be an evangelist in my current environment? Does God not want to search out the lost? Does he just want us to be amongst those we feel most comfortable with, and were we’re being ‘fed’ (in the form of ‘feeling at home’, ‘learning’, ‘therapy’ and ‘strokes’, etc., than Eucharist)?

    That said, very few things, if any, are an either/or in Catholicism, but that’s why I’m struggling particularly with ‘Traddies’ and their ilk. Their talk of ‘Eucharist’ sounds somewhat ‘therapeutic’ or ‘satisfying’, as it has to be in a certain form so you know what you’re getting, but where doctrine coincides taste, so the New Liturgical Movement is like Burger King telling you Macdonalds is an inferior product when, luckily, you prefer Burger King, even though Burger King is no authority on the matter.

    The atmosphere in the Church at this level smells so Protestant (aut-aut), considering what the Church teaches about Providence.

    You say, ‘One expects that those who ‘live according to the flesh’ and who are in need of evangelization will behave in certain ways (that’s what it means to live in the flesh) but one expects something quite differently from those who have died to self and who now live in Christ.’,
    - which sounds like if fits with Fr L’s piece about heresies and the Albigensians, gnostic, and other dualistic groups. As Mgr Knox points out in his, Creed in Slow Motion, the Church is a mixed bag, not a community of morally-uptight/upright prudes.

    We really have to take Fr’s key point seriously: trying to make friends with everyone, whatever ‘flavour’: ‘Get to know and love your pastor. Overwhelm him with joyful and loyal service. Find out what he needs and deliver it. Soon you will be his confidante and friend.’, for example. Or, as Francis de Sales is reputed to have said: ‘You win more flies with honey than vinegar’.

    (See, de Caussade, or Hubert van Zeller, Holiness, Sophia Institute Press, and Wilfrid Stinssen, Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Us, Ignatius Press, for example).

  • RodH

    I am an old Christian but a recent convert to the Catholic Church.
    Think we have troubles with presbyters and parishioners, debased lifestyles, corruption and attacks on orthodox doctrine by heretics?
    Do we not have any sort of communal memory?
    How about Ananias and Saphira? How about the doctrinal disputes between none other than Peter and Paul? How about the need for a Council even before the destruction of Jerusalem? How about INCEST and lack of concern about it that prompted none other than St Paul to establish the discipline of excommunication? Anybody read about the 7 lousy churches?
    This is the real world and this is the playing field. Sometimes the field is soft where we fall, and other times it is hard, dry and rocky. Sometimes we can run like the wind and sometimes we get clotheslined or spined. Tough. Keep at it.
    Folks, Mother Church is in the ditch. She’s breathing, and even from a distance you can see she is beautiful, but she is hurt bad. At your own cost, you can dismount, climb down into the ditch and drag her out, load her up on your donkey and at your expense pay to see she recovers from her wounds or you can leave her in the ditch to bleed while you go after the cold trail of her attackers, or you can simply ride on by, look the other way so you don’t miss the service at the “RealDeal Evangelhour” Sing’n’stomp. It is your choice.
    For myself, what I see is the Blessed Virgin lying in the ditch and I for one am not planning on leaving her there.
    If I have time, I will do my best to get her attackers, too…

  • Dave Smith

    You say that instead of complaining we should get involved and fix the problem. I understand what you are saying and respect your point of view Father. But I don’t think you are trying to reach out to traditionalists. We have been marginalized and we are the problem.

    I will tell you what I have done. I dropped out of going to the regular mass. I don’t have the time nor inclination to become involved. And as a single, I am not sure I have the clout that married people with families have. That must sound harsh. But I can’t see myself getting involved with groups of people whose idea of the Church is so opposite of what I believe. I just don’t have it in me. Maybe that is why I and many others like to listen to Voris. He is our voice so to speak. Just like how years ago, Rush Limbaugh provided a voice for conservatives when all you had were the three networks, all of which were in bed with the liberals and democrats.

    Here is how I deal with all this. I go out of my way to attend a Latin mass and there for 45 minutes, I feel peace. Total peace. No liturgical abuse, no silly music, no politically correct homilies, no interaction with fellow worshipers, no distractions. Just me and the Lord as I follow along praying those beautiful prayers in the English translation. I feel close to the Lord during the Latin mass. I have made peace with the new mass and respect those that go and find God there. Whatever brings you closer to God is what I say. But for me, I have finally found my peace and it is there in the Latin mass. And yet, I am branded as a rad-trad or traditionalist. So be it. I don’t care.

  • Erika Reece

    You are so right, Father! I think if we were all more honest with ourselves, we’d admit that we choose to stay in the shadows of our parish and expend our energy with fault-finding because it’s easier than the alternative. It is FAR more demanding and costly to be one of the Greats. I really feel that we look to avoid the cross of personal holiness by soothing ourselves with the thought that everything around us is in shambles…therefore, what can really be expected of us? In our minds, we’re actually not doin’ that bad. And if we’re to be any better, well, someone else will just have to improve the orthodoxy/purity/vibrancy of our surroundings.

    I know that I have fallen into this mindset many, many times. And each time I do, it has effectively paralyzed me from doing any actual good for the Church.

  • Erika Reece

    I wrote about this very issue not too long ago as well.

  • Doug

    Sorry father – but your analysis leaves out a lot of facts. How many well-known saints actually confronted popes that they believed to be out of line? How many defended the Church from heretics by direct confrontation with them and through writings? I love the example of John the Baptist who called out hypocrites for what they were and was not afraid to chastise his king (as did Christ, by the way). How many souls will die and be lost forever in the next hour, week, year because the Word of God was not made clear and held up as our guide, purely and simply.

  • gordonjewett

    I absolutely agree with Fr. Longenecker. Humility and sanctity. Get up each morning and place your feet in the footprints of Jesus. Be Christ to all whom you meet in your daily travels. We all know that there is an awful lot of work to be done. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be!
    Thank you Fr. Longenecker for your vocation and your witness.
    Peace and God Bless.

  • Matthew P. Schneider, LC

    Thank You! That is exactly what I try to say every day.

  • Matthew P. Schneider, LC

    If every member of the hierarchy is a shark, Christ has abandoned his Church. Yet he promised he never would. Paradox…

  • Gabrielle

    Thank you for the timely article Father Longenecker. I recently attended a parish council meeting, and had been a bit depressed by it. I find my heart ebbs and flows with frusteration and hope. A couple of things that have helped me in dealing with the current Catholic parish challenges: I attend daily Mass regularly; I go to frequent confession, weekly if possible; and I offer up my prayers and struggles to Mary and Jesus. I have found great comfort in such a path. I would like to add fasting and sacrifice, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet! And corporal works of mercy to help others and remind me to love others and be of humble service. With four little ones, sometimes it’s just reminding myself my main calling is as a mother. I try and fight the good fight, and if opportunity arises, I try to shine a light on the Catholic option. I know most people writing in the combox love the Church as I do. We all notice the warts, the bad, the ugly and sometimes we can let it overwhelm us. I pray that we let God’s grace unfold in our lives and trust that God has a plan for us in each and every moment. Thank you everyone for sharing. When I read all of the comments, it made me realize I am not alone. Even when the chips are down, there is grace to be found. Sometimes, having a trusted place to share and vent is nothing short of miraculous. Lastly, my secret weapon is the Rosary. I wish I could say I pray it daily — I don’t. However, I have found that when I do pray it, there is a patience that graces me that can only be considered divine.

  • Leo H

    Great advice Father! especially for “wannabee” better laymen like me who are often just, ‘to blind to see the forest for the trees’. Keep it up! God Bless!

  • Gina

    “At some thoughts a man stands perplexed,
    above all at the sight of human sin,
    and he wonders whether to combat it by force or by humble love.
    Always decide: “I will combat it by humble love.”
    If you resolve on that once, for all, you can conquer the whole world.

    Loving humility is a terrible force:
    it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.”

  • Patrick Cullen

    I simply chose to find an Eastern Rite parish that had many of the qualities that I was searching for in place already. I was able to devote my time and energy to bettering my prayer life and find ways to serve Christ and His Church. To be honest, I really don’t care what is happening in the latin church anymore. I’m in full communion with Rome and pray daily for Francis, but all the ink that is being spilled on liberals/traditionalists/radical traditionalists, etc, etc, etc is a waste of my spiritual energy.

  • Athelstane

    They want to assume the status of clerical class, not the hoi polloi, and it’s probably never been any different.

    John Paul II actually warned about this back in 2002, intoning against situations where involvement “by the laity becomes a form of clericalism when the sacramental or liturgical roles that belong to the priest are assumed by the lay faithful, or when the latter set out to accomplish tasks of pastoral governing that properly belong to the priest.” (Ad limina visit of the bishops of the Antilles, May 2002).

    And I think we’ve all seen it: the creation of a cohort of what I might call “professional lay ministers” who become a kind of elite caste of their own. The call of Vatican II for a greater lay empowerment too often gets twisted into the empowering of a small body of the laity, keen to assume many of the roles of clergy even without the title, while the rest of the laity remain as powerless as ever.

    This is not to speak against greater lay involvement in the parish, or service at the altar, or in the choir. But in too many parishes, something more is at work, and it is quite often these people, not the pastor himself, that can be the greatest obstacles to improving parish life and worship, even by the pastor himself. They may not be the “enemy,” but their intense pride in the ideas they’ve invested their lives in…can make it extremely difficult to make them into your friend or ally.

  • johnnyc

    Well…yes I do believe Father is telling us not to address errors. It seems to me as if he is saying smile and put up with it. No matter how ‘charitably’ we tell liberals that they are in error we will still be called intolerant, bigots, hateful and any other labels that modernists have to bury Truth in relativism. Of course we don’t want to be thought of that way so what happens? We become cowards and fail to speak the Truth at all.

  • Matthew Ogden

    This is as true as it is paradoxical. The best way to fight is not actual combat. It’s by focusing on proclaiming Christ as best as you personally can in your thoughts, words, and deeds. The spiritual life is full of things like this. If you focus on trying to love God more, you immediately fail in what you are trying to do: because if you focus on how much you want to love God, you’re still focusing on you. You have to focus on God. It’s counterintuitive and paradoxical, but it works. The world is full of paradox. This is yet another example.